PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In an effort to leverage more federal funding for Southern New England, congressional lawmakers are looking to create a regional economic development commission.
Congressmen David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, both Democrats, introduced legislation Friday to establish the so-called Southern New England Regional Commission, which would serve Rhode Island, Southeastern Massachusetts and nearby Connecticut counties, according to a news release.
“When local, state, and federal governments work together across state lines, we are able to tackle problems that affect all of us,” Cicilline said in a statement. “This bill will allow our communities in Southern New England to band together as a commission with the support of federal resources to address the major issues facing our region and implement a sustainable plan that will create jobs for years to come.”
If approved, the commission would look similar to the Northern Border Regional Commission – created in 2008 to serve economically distressed communities in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York – which received $20 million in federal funding last fiscal year.
The overhead costs associated with the commission would be covered by the participating states, while whatever ideas come out of it would be funded by the federal government, according to the press release.
“Too often, we allow geographic, invisible borders to force competition between friends that ultimately denies partners the opportunity to unify in pursuit of shared interests, federal investments and economic growth,” Kennedy in a statement. “By creating this regional commission, we can unite the strengths of our region and build a better future that cannot be restrained by state borders.”
This isn’t the first time Kennedy has floated the idea. In 2015, he gave a speech calling for regional leaders to start thinking beyond the border of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
“Traditional economic development strategies tend to ignore one obvious reality: your sense of community is rarely shaped by state and city lines,” he said at the time.
The proposed regional commission has already earned the support of fellow Democrats, including Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Joe Courtney of Connecticut, according to the press release.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.